Home » Intelligent Design » Agnostic & Non-Theistic ID Proponents/Sympathizers – Speak Up

Agnostic & Non-Theistic ID Proponents/Sympathizers – Speak Up

Intelligent Design is often accused of being entirely driven by religious motivations. I don’t think there’s anything about ID itself that warrants this conclusion, but I do think it’s obvious that ID’s supporters by and large tend to be religious. Even I’m a religious theist (Catholic, though a poor one by most standards), and some, though not all, of my ID interest is spurred by metaphysical considerations. At the same time, I see nothing in ID that mandates a person being religious, even theistic in the common sense of the term.

Which brings me to this thread. I’d like to invite an agnostics or non-theists who are either ID proponents, or are ID sympathetic, to speak up here. In fact, I’m going to lay out a few ground rules that I hope all will follow, in the hopes of keeping this thread particularly on-target.

* No barbs related to religious belief or theism, pro- or anti-. That means no proselytizing in either direction, no insults about anyone’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. In addition, let’s keep this respectful – assuming any non-theists or agnostics speak up.
* Again, the focus here is on ID sympathetic or proponents who are also agnostics or non-theists. Agnostic or non-theist ID critics, this isn’t the thread for you to lay out what you believe or don’t believe. Chances are I’m well aware anyway.
* Feel free to lay out what convinces or appeals to you about ID, what ID inferences you make or have made, etc. If you want to go further than ID and speculate on who or what you think the designer may be, feel free.
* If you’re an agnostic or a non-theist who thinks they may be ID sympathetic, but isn’t sure (For instance, you believe in design but also common descent and suspect this combination means you’re not

If any additional clarification is needed, just ask away. I’m honestly curious if – and frankly, hopeful that – some appropriate responses pop up here.

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45 Responses to Agnostic & Non-Theistic ID Proponents/Sympathizers – Speak Up

  1. I just read the intro a bit more carefully and realised you dont welcome comments from ID critics who are also non-theists. Sigh.

  2. Is it possible to be an atheist and believe in Intelligent Design?

  3. Is it possible to be an atheist and believe in Intelligent Design?

    Sure, why not? The designer in question could be something other than God or a god, after all, for much ID. I always like to refer to Dembski’s quote on this front:

    ID’s metaphysical openness about the nature of nature entails a parallel openness about the nature of the designer. Is the designer an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide.

    (Whether one could believe our universe is designed yet be an atheist is another question, and one I personally doubt. I think at the very least that commits one to deism, polytheism, or otherwise, at least in a typical sense of those terms. Still, ID proponents aren’t committed to endorsing all ID claims universally.)

  4. I don’t qualify as agnostic or non-religious, as I consider myself a religious person, but I don’t have a particular religious commitment either for or against ID in the narrow sense, meaning the idea that life arose and developed to its current state of diversity and complexity through some kind of intelligent agency, rather than unguided natural processes. My interest in ID at that level is primarily logical and scientific — what does the evidence show in terms of what is required for the origin and development of life? At that level, I find ID to be extremely convincing.

    I also don’t know that I have a particular philosophical commitment to broader ID: the design of the universe, laws of nature, etc. I do, however, accept what my personal experience tells me, namely that teleology is a real phenomenon. I would therefore tend to discount any theory that claims to do away with teleology and reduce reality to a natural consequence of matter and energy, so perhaps in that sense I have a philosophical tendency toward teleological explanations.

  5. 5

    Speaking as the antithesis of your targeted commenter (a theistic evolutionist), I’m very interested to see what responses you get and the reasons for their beliefs.

  6. I don’t think you will get any atheists.

    It is logically possible to believe in ID and not believe in a God of some kind. But with only a few extremely plausible assumptions then ID entails a God or supernatural being of some kind. See this article by Elliot Sober.

  7. But with only a few extremely plausible assumptions then ID entails a God or supernatural being of some kind.

    Man, ID proponents must love guys like you.

    And given that Sober says his argument “owes a debt to Aquinas”, despite it being an IC argument which Aquinas never made, and assuming a finite universe as Aquinas expressly avoided in his arguments, I’ll quickly conclude “Sober’s kind of slow” and leave it at that.

    I may well not see any non-theists or agnostics reply here, but be that as it may, I’m not interested in turning this into the inane anti-ID apologetics thread.

  8. Prof. FX Gumby,

    Speaking as the antithesis of your targeted commenter (a theistic evolutionist), I’m very interested to see what responses you get and the reasons for their beliefs.

    As am I. There’s a good chance there will be no takers – Eric Anderson’s reply was interesting, but not quite the agnostic/non-theist I was hoping for. I always wondered if there were any ID sympathetic sorts among the transhumanists and singularitarians, even if they’d probably be hostile to the ID movement they perceive.

  9. #6 Nullasus

    Why is it that so many of you get so aggressive and personal so quickly in a discussion? I only pointed out a paper by Sober.

  10. Markf,

    Partly because the paper was inane. Mostly because it’s off-topic – I made it clear who I was hoping to hear from in this thread, and the conduct I wanted people to adhere to. I’m not thrilled to see someone already trying to go off topic by comment 5.

    Save it for some other thread.

  11. Hi nullasalus

    I am a non-theist and a supporter of ID.

    I do not believe in a personal God. Nor am I a deist. I do however acknowledge there are many things we do not know, and we may share this universe with forces and perhaps entities that are currently beyond our understanding.

    I support the idea that natural processes as currently understood are woefully inadequate to explain the history of life, and, in particular, the development of consciousness in biological organisms. The modern sciences are trending towards a naive materialism, whilst philosophy and metaphysics have taken a back seat, and I think is a worrying situation.

    On the other hand, whilst I believe ID is making progress pointing out the flaws in materialist philosophy, far too much time is wasted attacking the physical theory of evolution per se. The front of the battle has moved on.

    Cheers
    CLAVDIVS

  12. When I first came across ID I was an atheist. However, being married to a firm believer in god, my love for my wife had tempered any condescension or vitriol I had previously felt for the religious.

    I became interested in ID simply because, for whatever reason, I immediately recognized the arguments against ID to be contrived, and the arguments that ID proponents were making were not only intuitively on target, they were sound rationally.

    I really began realizing that what I thought was sound logic and reasoning for atheism, was really just emotion-appealing rhetoric and artful dodging of fundamental contradictions of necessary first principles and right reasoning.

    ID introduced me to a world of theistic reasoning that I had frankly never been exposed to before. My atheism – like that of many, I imagine – was more of an emotional reaction to the blatantly cartoonish, ultra-hypocritical, unbelievable, and unsupportable-even-if-true God I was presented with by those who raised me (or, at least, that’s how my young mind perceived the god that had been presented). There was no way, I thought at the time, that any reasonable, intelligent person could believe in such an entity.

    ID theorists and calm, reasoned arguments by theistic philosophers involved in ID, and their logical dismantling of the atheistic/materialist perspective into incoherency due to lack of any necessary first principles eventually made me realize that no argument can be sustained by basis unless logic and truth exist as their own commodities, and not as the relativistic, solipsistic computations of material machinery.

    Either God exists, or we must admit we each live in a solipsistic bubble of material programming utterly incapable of discerning true statements from false, without even a meaningful way to do so, and without any reason to do so. ID proponents elegantly demonstrated that you can no more argue truth or attain teleology from the “is” of mechanical materialism than you can honestly argue by the merits that a long series of happy accidents can generate the deep, interconnected, inter-dependent complex coded nano-technology found in a single cell.

    ID proponents laid the groundwork for me to set aside my emotional barricade against the idea of god and re-examine the issue from a more adult and logical perspective.

    To borrow from Dawkins, ID has made it possible for me to be an intellectually fulfilled theist. With that more sound and reasoned theism, I have found a peace, happiness and fulfillment that before had always eluded me.

    So, if any ID advocates here get tired and think that their arguments are falling on deaf ears, let my story here motivate you to keep you in the debate. The tools provided by Behe, Dembski, Meyer and so many here – GilDodgen, kairosfocus, vjtorley, nullasalas, Denyse, Barry, bornagain,etc. – the links, the books, the arguments – have not only made a profound difference in my life, but in the lives of many people I know who were once atheistic or agnostic, and are now disabused of that unsupportable position and are also intellectually fulfilled theists.

    Thank you. ID and the love a good, theistic woman has transformed my life.

  13. Mel

    On the behalf of many commenters and contributors at UD, thank you for the kind words.

    GEM of TKI

  14. This most interesting post has been stuck to the top all day. Other coverage continues below.

    Some atheists, like Bradley Monton, sympathize with ID as a good question in science and criticize some of its opponents. Some agnostics like Steve Fuller can be put in the same camp. (Berlinski anyone?) Some atheists an agnostics have written material that is anti-Darwinist (Fodor, Stove, Caton), anti-materialist (Tallis, Nagel).

    You could search on this site for stories featuring their comments, if of interest.

  15. Meleagar,

    As many here know, I was an atheist when I first became intrigued with ID (cosmological ID through the fine-tuning of the laws of physics at first, and later, biological ID when a Christian friend suggested I read Michael Denton’s first book).

    The famous atheist Antony Flew abandoned his atheism as a result of ID arguments.

    Another interesting thread would involve inviting ex-atheists to comment on how ID influenced them.

  16. It’s probably not what you were looking for. However, I view evolution itself (as a process) to be an intelligent design system.

    I’ll note that this disagrees with markf, in that it does not entail any kind of god or supernatural being.

  17. 17

    Mel at 11,

    Wow. What a great story. Thanks.

  18. 18
    john_a_designer

    Let’s not forget about the late Anthony Flew. He wrote in his book, There is a God: How the Worlds Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind:

    “I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what is traditionally called natural theology. It has no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason not of faith.”(p93)

  19. I know of only one ID proponent who claims to be agnostic and I have reasons to doubt this persons sincerity.
    It seems to me that if one believed there was strong evidence for ID (I don’t) then theism should follow naturally. It would almost be delusional NOT to believe in God. I don’t think ‘aliens’ is a viable alternative….then again (thinking out loud) one might consider that the designer was so far removed from the human concept of God that any religious interpretation was unwarranted

  20. nullasalus, you quote Dembski as saying

    Is the designer an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide.

    What I don’t understand is why would Dembski think that the data can’t decide? What leads him to draw such a profound and final conclusion? Isn’t it possible that we may yet discover the identity of the designer(s)?

  21. lastyearon,

    I won’t speak for Dembski, but I imagine one response would be that ‘the data’ may be able to decide, but the data ID concerns itself with (examining artifacts/natural structures), given the methodology it commits to, can’t do the trick. That’s not to say there aren’t other routes available to someone to infer the identify of the designer.

  22. I’m glad to see a couple non-theist ID sympathizers showing up in this thread. Also grateful for the temporary sticky, so thanks to whoever decided that.

    I should have noted those atheist and agnostic ID sympathetic sorts (Monton, Berlinkski, etc) right at the start of this thread, so I’m glad someone else brought that up. Francis Crick (in his directed panspermia days) would also qualify, I imagine. As I noted before, I would think that ID would be a natural fit among certain agnostics/non-theists if they could get beyond the perception that ID is a religious or Christian-only venture.

  23. 23

    There used to be a non-theist commentator on this blog: DaveScot.

  24. I am an atheist, and completely agnostic on ID. I grant the possibility that life on Earth was designed, but I don’t believe that the ID movement has succeeded in making the case yet, and it could be a long while (decades even) before they do, if they can.

    As for identity of the designer, well, of course, some advanced alien race interested in seeding more life in their corner of the Universe is certainly a possibility. Motivations could vary — maybe they found there was little of no other intelligent life out there, and desired company they could relate to, or maybe we’re just the unexpected side-effects of some form of science experiment they were conducting. Either way, unless they made themselves known to us, we are unlikely to find out the circumstances of our existence.

    Alternatively, it’s also possible that the Universe itself was created by something that is God-like, but not a god. There is no reason why the Universe’s creator (if there is one) must be a singular being that deserves — nay demands — to be worshiped. Again, for all we know, our Universe could be a fifth-grade science project of some pan-dimensional school kid.

    I think what irks me the most about the bulk of the commenters and posters on this board is the assumption that the designer must be God, indeed, that somehow it is self-evident that it must be.

    When pressed, the usual course of action is to ask, well, who created the designer(s) if they are not God? That’s a good question, but doesn’t bolster their assertion that our designer is God in the slightest. For all we know, our designer(s) may already know exactly how they came into being through natural processes (or some extra-Universe mechanism of process).

    As for arguments from logic or causality, well, perhaps they are merely properties of our Universe, in which can appeals to them for the existence of an entity outside of space and time is futile.

    Finally, the Matrix Universe theory is intriguing one though ultimately even if true, it would seem that the simulation is so perfect that we might as well assume that we do live in a real Universe, so we might as well treat it as such.

    It certainly may be possible one day to put our brains into a simulated world that is hard to distinguish from reality (if this is reality) at which point any number of simulated universes could be possible.

    Overall though, I personally think the battle over ID/evolution needs to remain in the realm of science. Politicians, legislatures, and school boards need to stay out of it. Do the science, design and do the experiments, collate the results and make the case. It took plate tectonics advocates decades to prove that they had the superior theory, and it could easily take ID as long, if not longer especially if the work is not started in earnest.

  25. I’ll add in this comment from someone over at Mike Gene’s blog in the past:

    I have no problem with ID in principle for the following reasons:
    1) As we appear to be material beings there are questions about consciousness and free-will that lead me to think that it’s possible that we are just extremely complex automata.
    2) Using the concept that humans design things, then from (1) it’s possible complex systems of matter can perform design. This may change the concept of what design actually is.
    3) I don’t see any obstacle to humans eventually being able to design life from scratch. It seems an entirely technical problem.
    4) I don’t see any obstacle to humans eventually being able to design conscious entities. It’s not clear what different types of consciousness might exist, or what substrates it might be built on.
    5) From the above I don’t see an obstacle to ID: Intelligent humans designing life, and even intelligent life. Whether this is a direct design, or something that requires self-growth, self-generation, designed evolution, etc., doesn’t really matter.
    6) I don’t see any reason why intelligent alien life can’t have existed prior to us in this universe. There might be some issues about their source, but that simply shifts the human/intelligent origins somewhere else. Even if natural evolution is all there is we have no knowledge of the limits of the mechanisms of evolution, so we can’t say how long an alien civilisation might have had chance to develop. I’m not a fan of probability estimates in cases like these, because basically we’re dealing with the complete unknown, so all bets are off.
    My one problem with all this is that 3,4,5 haven’t actually occurred, so I think I’m safe in saying there is no evidence to support these speculations, though I do think they are plausible.

    Source: http://designmatrix.wordpress......mment-2844

  26. I may miss a simple explanation, but:
    If you believe in the christian God, how can you accept an Intelligent Designer who is not the christian God?
    Why would an Intelligent Designer, who is not the christian God, create the christian God?

  27. If you believe in the christian God, how can you accept an Intelligent Designer who is not the christian God?

    Because perhaps God designed the Intelligent Designer.

  28. Seqenenre,

    If you believe in the christian God, how can you accept an Intelligent Designer who is not the christian God?

    Putting the idea of proxies aside (angels, etc.) for now…

    That depends on what you mean. ID, by every major advocate I know of, gets one as far as ‘a designer’ and that’s it. That’s a very general place to arrive at. And a given line of evidence or argument may only get you to that.

    ID, in and of itself, only gets you as far as ‘a designer’. That designer can in principle be a number of agents, including the Christian God. And if you do believe in the Christian God, it won’t be ID alone doing the work. (There’s no bible in ID, for one thing. That comprises a different approach, argument, set of evidence, etc.)

  29. Seqenenre :”If you believe in the christian God, how can you accept an Intelligent Designer who is not the christian God?”

    I agree with nullsalus and would perhaps describe it this way:

    The question of whether something is designed is a first order question. Only after that question is answered in the affirmative can you ever move to the next order question, namely, who did the designing?

    ID only deals with the first question. Confirmation that something was designed would of course appeal to someone who was already convinced that they know the identify of a designer who is putatively capable of doing the designing, which is why ID is supportive of the idea of God and is embraced by so many who have theistic views.

    However, and this is key, ID, dealing only with the first order question, can only answer the question of whether something was designed and can never speak to who did the designing. For that, you must look to other sources of information that go beyond ID proper.

    Therefore, ID, in giving an affirmative response to the first order question allows you to move to the second order question and is therefore *supportive* of theism (and any other viewpoint that posits an intelligent agency in the universe). Said another way, ID is intellectually *supportive* of asking the second order question, but is not *sufficient* to answer that second question.

  30. I am an IDist who is not a religious person- but I do not categorically deny the existence of God.

    As far as universal common descent goes, again I do not categorically deny it but there isn’t any way to test the claim without first assuming it.

    I view mutations as being directed by an organism’s internal programming much like a computer program directs the strings of 1s and 0s on any given bus line.

  31. Eric Anderson, you said

    However, and this is key, ID, dealing only with the first order question, can only answer the question of whether something was designed and can never speak to who did the designing.

    Why not? What is it about the designer(s) that prevents ID from ever discovering anything about them?

  32. I am an atheist who is not a proponent of ID but perhaps a sympathizer. At least to the extent I see no issue with the questions that ID is asking – or the challenges to conventional evolutionary theory. As an atheist I do not have belief in “gods” but that does not necessarily preclude that there is something more about the Universe that we cannot currently perceive. As Tyke put so well, this “something” may be entirely different in nature from our (limited?) view of what a god is or isn’t.

    I do think ID though is still in a very infant stage – I think for it to proceed, it needs to develop a very solid research program (looks like Biologic is a start here, but output so far seems rather esoteric and limited). I sometimes feel too much energy is put into PR and combating “materialism” rather than really focusing on making ID go forward. Like others too I do rather glaze over when many here resort to bible-quoting, given that the identify of the Designer is supposed to be “out of bounds” – and sometimes even outright proselytizing. Perhaps that kind of discussion should be reserved for a different kind of forum, and this one focused strictly on scientific matters?

    I find it interesting to note that many of the more modern precepts of Intelligent Design (e.g., CSI, IC) would not have been possible without advances in information theory and microbiology. Which makes me wonder, if this intelligence is out there, does it actually want to be detected, since for thousands of years many of the claims of ID could not really be verified without modern science? It’s for this reason that I personally think ID is out of odds with Biblical accounts (although I know some do try and reconcile the two, it always feels a metaphysical stretch to put it mildly, and more an exercise in mental gymnastics).

    One other question – why is it that the “big names” in ID (Behe, Wells, Dembski, Berlinski) are so reticent to participate in forums like this (I know Dembski used to). Isn’t this supposed to be the premier blog for ID? No offense meant, but it feels like UD has become staffed almost entirely by amateurs – yes, they can be knowledgable and ardent, but given ID’s goal to be respected as science, why so little input from the pros? Even Cornelius Hunter has stopped posting here.

  33. 33

    “What is it about the designer(s) that prevents ID from ever discovering anything about them?”

    The limitations are not about the designer, its about the evidence. That’s how empiricism works.

    BTW, “ever” and “never” are big words which are often not very useful in discussions of science.

  34. lastyearon,

    To build on Upright BiPed’s point, ID is a pretty narrow method of inquiry.

    I guess this would be one way to put it: You can find out how much things weigh with a scale. You can’t find out what color things are with a scale. This doesn’t mean “we’ll never find out what color things are” – use a camera. Or just look at the thing. But when your method of inquiry is limited to the scale, that’s it – you’re getting weights and little else.

    woodford,

    Thanks for the reply. I’ll put the rest aside for now, and simply say “At least to the extent I see no issue with the questions that ID is asking – or the challenges to conventional evolutionary theory. As an atheist I do not have belief in “gods” but that does not necessarily preclude that there is something more about the Universe that we cannot currently perceive.” was something I was wondering if I’d encounter. I consider that encouraging.

    I also think ID is in a developing stage. I think the signs of it developing are promising (as ever, I don’t equate ID or no-ID with science myself, given some caveats – but even if it’s not science, it’s a great and valid direction of inquiry.) I also suspect, oddly enough, that agnostics and non-theists are going to become increasingly important in ID arguments as supporters and sympathizers.

    (I’m thinking here of ideas by John Gribbin, Nick Bostrom, and others whose ideas as a whole aren’t necessarily “ID”, but which contain a substantial amount of ID-relevant thought.)

  35. Upright Biped, in reference to my question “What is it about the designer(s) that prevents ID from ever discovering anything about them?”
    you say:

    The limitations are not about the designer, its about the evidence. That’s how empiricism works.

    There is currently no empirical evidence to suggest who the designer is. I agree with you on that. However, what I don’t understand is the notion that there can’t be any evidence identifying the designer.

  36. to last year on @35:
    there could be evidence I suppose;

    we could arrive on planet x, and find a lab there with the plans for dna drawn on the board, and Mork is the name of the bio-engineer on the design documents and say: this is a good probability that Mork was the designer; – as in laws, a jury of peers might determine that, beyond a reasonable doubt, Mork did it; we might not be sure that Mork didn’t steal the design from Spork, in the next cubicle over, kill Spork, and claim the design to be his own.

    is this ID, per se? or CSI, or legal investigation, or are they indistiguishable?

  37. 37

    Hello Lastyear,

    You say: “There is currently no empirical evidence to suggest who the designer is. I agree with you on that. However, what I don’t understand is the notion that there can’t be any evidence identifying the designer.”

    I am unaware of who is suggesting there can’t be any evidence to identify the designer. On the other hand, I am very aware of who is saying that there isn’t any evidence to provide that identity. That particular display of evidentiary discipline would characterize the virtual whole of ID proponents.

    The conclusions of ID are appropriate to the evidence itself, instead being assembled from the prior commitments of one’s worldview.

    What a refreshing change.

  38. to lastyearon: continued from 35

    What are the odds we’d happen to stumble on that planet where Mork lived; what clues would lead us there? that’s a reason that we’d be unlikely to discover the identity;

    but, another possibility is that Mork visited here, and took back a sample of dna, and reverse engineered it, and did his “design” based on that;

    which, again, brings up the question of the concept of “reverse engineering” which seems to imply engineering in the first place

    compare this to a recent post where Rabbi Averick discusses PZ Myers comparison of life to the complexity of drift wood

    not many would set out to reverse engineer drift wood; why? what function did it server, a barrier/wall?

  39. I should have read this thread earlier. I must try using the topics list sometime.

  40. Ez,
    Is that something you would consider yourself? agnostic/atheistic ID sympathetic? I’m interested because you’re an interesting chap and I must admit I like your openness to inquiry…even though you may not agree, you examine the evidence in a balanced manner. :)

  41. MR: I’d like to think that I’m open to evidence, where ever it comes from. I understand that all knowledge is provisional and that many studies and/or hypotheses are later shown to be flawed or in need of modification. I know I am not expert enough to evaluate some claims and results so I do give more weight to repeated, clearly verified outcomes and a general consensus.

    I think that it’s very, very, very important to really listen to what others, particularly those you disagree with, are saying. So I’m making an effort to ask pertinent questions and listen to the responses. I’m a fallible human being so I get it wrong sometimes, I over state my case, I step on toes, I offend. But I really am trying to listen.

    We have lots of problems that need solving. Even if we don’t see eye to eye I think we’re more likely to come to an agreeable compromise if we really understand each other.

    Not much of an answer really. Sorry.

  42. Jacob Bronowski from The Ascent of Man at Auschwitz. This is what I try to keep in my mind always.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jl2w3xYFHQ

  43. EZ,
    No that was a perfectly acceptable answer. I may not know your exact thoughts on God but I understand you more as a human. thank you for your honesty and openness.
    Video was excellent. In no way am I anti-science. And as believer I am assured that science and God are not at ends with one and other.
    Dogmatic religion is a whole other matter. ;)

  44. EZ:

    Provisionality is indeed a characteristic of scientific knowledge claims, though it is not the same case for all knowledge claims.

    For instance, I would highlight that the claim from Royce, “error exists,” is self-evidently and undeniably true — and quire humbling. But this shows that it is possible to know some truths to a warrant of certainty on pain of patent absurdity on their denial. So, truth is non-empty, and knowable truth to the point of certainty is also non-empty.

    Now, while I understand and share Mr Bronowski’s rage at the dogmatic character and arrogance to certainty and refusal to be open-minded on the part of the Nazis, I think he has unfortunately resorted to improper comparisons, by using the language of critique of religion hinted at in terms like “dogma.” For, in fact — hot denials to the contrary notwithstanding, Nazi racial “hygiene” ideology was in material part presented to the German people as the culmination of generations of SCIENTIFIC, evolutionary thought [tracing back to Haeckel thence Darwin], the same thought that had led to that claimed application of evolutionary science known as eugenics [look carefully at the tree diagram for the 1921 Second International Congress, please]; and in fact that is painfully demonstrable.

    Indeed, early Nazi laws were modelled on eugenics laws that had been passed in the leading countries of the world, in particular the USA (where the power elites were long since given over to then fashionable evolutionary thought as a comprehensive worldview . . . the Loeb-Leopold murder trial in the 1920s was sadly diagnostic). And eugenics did not fully die out until the 1950′s – 70′s or so. Worse, believe it or not, some sprouts of that hardy perennial want to stick up in our day!

    Like any other good thing, Science, sadly, can be abused. So, we need to seriously and soberly reflect on ethical and epistemological issues connected to science, including the amoral implications of materialism.

    Scientific thought is SUPPOSED to be provisional and thus critically aware and open-minded, but all too easily it can become ideologised and absolutised, thence, outright arrogant and closed-minded. If you doubt me on this, please ponder the implications of the Sagan-Lewontin views as summarised in this key clip:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [NB: this is an epistemological -- philosophical, not scientific -- claim; i.e. it is self-refuting] . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    [[From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997.]

    Do you see why Philip Johnson’s rebuke was well-merited?

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    So, there is another side to the story.

    GEM of TKI

  45. KF: I don’t want to get into a debate about materialism and the Nazis, etc.

    Common descent with modification is true or not true and carries no ideology. People have agendas and political goals. People use and abuse scientific notions for non-scientific reasons.

    Members of Jacob Bronowski’s family died in the Nazi concentration camps yet he still believed in the modern evolutionary synthesis. The Archbishop of Canterbury believes in evolution. Kenneth Miller believes in evolution. The Dahli Lama believes in evolution. The Pope . . . . well . . .

    From what I can see, support for Darwin’s theory has nothing to do with faith. Likewise, perversion of Darwin’s theory has nothing to do with science.

    The Nazis may (or may not have) gilded their actions with a veneer of science. They should be judged based upon their actions. People who murder abortion doctors, dictators who order the slaughter of their subjects, Popes who declare crusades against heretical Christians (the Albegensian Crusade) . . . anyone who thinks they have the right to sentence other people to death because of ideology and dogma is wrong.

    Atheism is not to blame. Materialism is not to blame. Darwinism is not to blame. People with spite and axes to grind are to blame. People who crave power and control are to blame. Let’s deal with the real problems, together.

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